How to Find a Flat in London


London is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world with more than 200 languages being spoken. Moving here is exciting and so is finding your new accommodation.

Renting is a common option for expats who choose to move to London because of the advantages over buying. The first advantage is that you are not committed for so long. If you find work or studies elsewhere, it is easier to move. You will also find things cheaper as bills are often included and you don’t have to worry about property maintenance.

We certainly aren’t against buying in London. There are many amazing opportunities for those who are able, however, this article focuses on helping expats rent a flat.

Finding An Ideal Flat In London.

The first task is to reduce the extensive list of possible flats. Have you decided on an area? How much time will you be spending at home? If you think you will be away a lot, choose something smaller to save your pennies. Look for flats that are above ground floor level for added security.

You may have the option to share. There are pros and cons to this. On the plus side, you will be able to reduce your expenses. The down side is that you have to share the responsibilities with someone you don’t know well, if at all.

Other things to consider are the washing facilities, whether the property has any furniture and whether you would like some kind of garden space.

After you have thought about these things, here are some ways you can begin your search.

  • Word of mouth- people you know in London may know of a room or flat available
  • The Internet- one of the most popular websites is Rightmove. Once registered, they will send email alerts,
  • Local newspaper- sounds old fashioned but many still choose to advertise here, be quick though!
  • Estate Agents – pop into a local estate agent or visit their website
  • Students- you can get more information at the Student Accommodation office

Going Through A Letting Agency Or Landlord

Letting Agents should be regulated by the ‘Association of Residential Letting Agents’! They might maintain contact for the duration of your stay in a flat, or they may only handle the tenancy agreement and deposit. They are a safe bet.

Going directly with a landlord is like playing the lottery. There are some who won’t always stick to tenancy agreements and there are some fabulous landlords.

Setting Up A Viewing Of The Property

Once you have found a flat you like, make sure you take your list of things to check with you. This list should include:

  • Heating and water. You need to know that it works and how it works. By law, an instruction manual must be provided. The hot water and radiators may run on different systems. You may also want to ask about double glazing.
  • Gas safety. Safety is the key concern. Ask to see an up to date P12 Gas Safety Certificate.
  • Electricity. You need to know where the fuse box is, how it works and how to turn off the mains.
  • The furniture and appliances. Check that all appliances have instructions and that everything meets fire safety regulations. Make sure a list of everything is included in the agreement.
  • Do you have a garden? Parking? Storage?
  • Is everything clean and well looked after?

Before signing any agreement, visit the property at different times of the day to get more of a feel. Try to speak to some neighbours for their opinions too.

Rent, Bills And Other Expenses

You will have to pay a deposit, which will be placed in a Tenancy Deposit Protection. When you leave the flat you will be refunded the deposit less any damages you may have caused- not including normal wear and tear. Rent is normally paid monthly although in some cases it is weekly or quarterly.

If your bills are not included, you will need to arrange your council tax, which can be done through your local council. Other bills will include water, electric, gas, and Internet if you choose to have it. A TV license is obligatory in all of the UK, even if you are watching live TV on a computer or mobile!

Your Landlord is responsible for insurance on the building but it is sensible to take out contents insurance for your things.

Your Rights And Responsibilities.

We strongly recommend that you stay away from verbal agreements, particularly if English is not your first language and /or you are not familiar with the laws in the UK.

An Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) is the most common. It allows for a fixed period of 6 or 12 months. After the stated period of time, it can become periodic. A landlord cannot request that you leave (unless you do not comply with the agreement) within the fixed period of time. After, they must give you 2 months notice. You are not allowed to leave within the fixed period of time. After, you must give 1 months notice.

Your responsibilities may seem obvious:

  • Pay your rent on time, think about setting up a Standing Order.
  • Pay bills on time
  • Do not take part in illegal activity and respect the neighbors- keep the noise down.
  • Look after the property and its extended areas
  • Inform your landlord as soon as any maintenance is needed.

You are also not permitted to run a business from your home, decorate or change the property or be away for more than 14 days without permission.

The responsibilities of your landlord are:

  • Maintain the property (but you have to change light bulbs and batteries)
  • Give you two months notice
  • Give you plenty of warning before visiting
  • Provide you with keys if they have to change them
  • Provide their name and address
  • Keep the deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme

The Day You Move

Any time you move house there is a lot of excitement and stress. Simple things like having your post redirected beforehand, changing your address with your bank and other authorities and packing what you can in advance reduce the stress. If necessary, think of using a removal company!